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What is Orisha Music

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 Orisha Music is the music that is performed for the deities of the Yoruba based religions of Ifa. In the Americas, this includes the traditions of Lukumi and Santeria.
The Yoruba People live primarily in the country of Nigeria, West Africa.  Linguists note that the Yoruba language base is very similar to the languages of Egypt and believe that the Yoruba people  migrated to  the west from Egypt centuries ago.
 The Yoruba people brought with them a highly developed culture with extensive knowledge in the sciences, arts and medicines.  They are credited for developing an advanced method of metallurgy which has yet to be explained by modern scientists.

The Yoruba, through the strength of their culture and numbers, were able to dominate many of their neighbors on the West African  Coast. They make up the largest ethnic and linguistic group in Western Africa.

Many Yoruba were brought to the Americas during the slave era.  Many Africans were taken to the islands and South America.  Many were also brought to the eastern  and southern coast of the United States. It is estimated that 85% of African Americans are of Yoruba descent. 

African Traditions were allowed to thrive without much suppression in South America and the Islands.  The music, culture and spiritual practices have been preserved for over 400 years by the priests of Santeria and Lukumi sequestered in the island of Cuba.

African spiritual traditions were suppressed in the United States during the slave era to control and suppress the African Spirit. The primary tenent of the Willie Lynch Doctrine was to strip from the African  all things that would identify him or her as human.  The languages, the spiritual practices,were torn away.  Drumming by Africans was made a crime punishable by death.  

African drumming has become very popular  in the United States yet many are surprised to learn that drumming, made illegal during the slave era,  is still on the books as a crime in many of the south eastern United States. And most are unaware of what most African Americans, especially women have had to endure to revive drumming and dance traditions

Orisha music has become popular in the Untied States as more people have begun embracing  and reclaiming the Yoruba based traditions of the African American ancestry.  Orisha music is the first gospel music.  Indeed, we say Orisha verneration was the original African American Church.  It is becoming so again. The spirited singing and dancing in the church has its roots in our African  spiritual heritage. 

The video above shows songs and dance to the Orisha Elegba in a traditional bembe (Orisha Celebration) context.  Notice, the Akpon (lead singer) leads 3-5 songs for Elegbaaccompanied in a call-response fashion by his chorus.

Get started listening and  learning Orisha Music by picking a selection from our recommended listening list. These artists were selected because of their performing the more popular Orisha songs, their  simple arrangements of the music and clarity of singing. 

But before jumping into the intellectual  study of Orisha music,  purchase Fatu’s CD and book and a recommended CD off the list. Enjoy the drumming and singing. The music is passionate and quite beautiful and you will be glad for your selection   

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